“Education is a thing that is going to set us free. I believe that. I really think that and believe that.”
Data shows that Indigenous students are almost 50 per cent less likely to graduate from high school than their non-Indigenous peers.
Ron Walker, executive director of Operations at the Canadian Native Friendship Centre in Edmonton, spoke with Dustin McGladrey of CFWE-FM, about the importance of education in First Nations communities, and the types of opportunities a new partnership creates for urban Indigenous youth.
“Education is a thing that is going to set us free. I believe that. I really think that and believe that.” Walker said. “Without education, how are we going to know what our rights are? Without education, how are we going to know what our basic human needs are?”
In days past, Walker said, Indigenous peoples entered schools only to receive sub-par learning, and did not see education equity on reserve as compared to mainstream facilities.
“We want to combat that kind of mentality. We want to make it (learning) relevant and we want to make it effective.”
Pathways to Education is a charitable organization that offers support for students in low-income communities across Canada throughout their high school career. Pathways is working with the Canadian Native Friendship Centre and the Saskatoon Tribal Council to launch new programs.
Graduation outcomes for students involved in Pathways programs have increased to 85 per cent, Walker said, with 74 per cent of graduates going on to post-secondary learning.
“It’s one on one attention that’s going to assist them a lot more,” Walker said. He said poverty is destroying our communities. It limits opportunities for young people.
“It limits their food intake. It can limit their availability for having books and proper writing utensils.”
The Pathways programs help students by providing financial assistance, after-school tutoring, and mentoring to help students from these communities graduate from high school and transition to post-secondary education, training, or employment.